Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQ

Am I eligible to participate in Tidelines courses?


All students must meet our essential eligibility criteria. There may be additional eligibility criteria associated with your course; please check your course information or email a Tidelines staff member with any questions. 

How do I get to Tidelines Institute?


As part of your course information, you will receive instructions on booking travel. 

The nearest major airport is Juneau, Alaska. When booking travel to & from Alaska, we strongly recommend purchasing tickets that allow for free rescheduling, as connections to/from both campuses can be delayed due to weather at any time of year. Alternatively/additionally, students can add a buffer day in Juneau. Tidelines Institute is not responsible for any expenses, logistics, or other inconveniences due to changes in the travel plan. For overnight stays, the Juneau Youth Hostel has inexpensive rates and easy access to downtown, though it is a bus/taxi ride from the airport. There are several options within walking distance of the airport, though these tend to be somewhat pricier.

The Good River Campus in Gustavus is reachable from Juneau year-round by bush plane (regularly scheduled Alaska Seaplanes flights or charter flight) and by the Alaska state ferry system (usually twice weekly). From early June through mid-August, Alaska Airlines also operates a once-daily jet between Juneau and Gustavus.

The remote Inian Islands Campus is reachable by charter flight or charter boat from Juneau. Participants may also travel via regularly scheduled Alaska Seaplanes flights from Juneau to Gustavus or Elfin Cove, where our staff regularly travel by boat and can arrange a pickup.

What is the weather like?


Southeast Alaska is part of a temperate rainforest. This means that it can rain at any time of year! Summers are usually quite mild—usually in the  60s. Some days are sunny and hot, others rainy and cool. Winters are snowy and rainy with temperatures in the 20s and 30s. Because we are so far north, it is very light in the summers (it can be light until almost midnight), and very dark in the winters (we sometimes get as little as 6 hours of daylight).

Where do students live?


At the Inian Island Campus, students live in a 2-story bunkhouse with a large living room, electricity, shower (hot water may or may not be available depending how much hydroelectric power we are generating), and bunks upstairs. Students walk to the main house for meals, washing machine, and internet. During the colder months, the bunkhouse may be without running water, but the main house will have running water year round. 

At the Good River Campus, students live in yurts and/or wall tents, depending on the course. Student housing has no running water, power, or wifi. It mainly serves as sleeping space, and students will spend most of their time in other areas of campus. Kitchen, showers, and washer and dryer are available at the main building, as well as internet access and a living room.

Housing at both campuses is heated predominantly by wood stoves, which students are expected to stoke. Both campuses also use composting outhouses. Wifi and power may be inconsistent on both campuses, and students should expect to have extremely limited privacy and personal space for belongings. If further privacy is desired, students are welcome to tent camp to the extent equipment is available.

What is the food like?


At Tidelines we believe strongly that everyone should think about where their food comes from, how to eat in a sustainable manner and how to express gratitude to the land. Many meals are taken communally. Exact meal plans depend on the course.

Tidelines is able to accommodate some but not all dietary restrictions. Vegetarian options are always available, and we can usually accommodate common restrictions and allergies. However, we do not guarantee an allergen-free environment. We ask any student with a history of severe allergies or anaphylaxis – and/or any student with multiple dietary restrictions – to contact us at the time of application to determine whether or not we can accommodate your needs. We do not have easy access to normal grocery stores, and neither students nor staff have the capacity to arrange wholly separate meals for individuals.

Do I need to have outdoor experience? What kinds of trips & activities will students do outside?

Although no prior wilderness or camping experience is expected of students, a readiness and willingness to learn outdoors skills is! Students can expect to spend time hiking, working outside, or paddling on a daily basis. Many everyday activities that normally take place indoors are outside at Tidelines. You will filet fish and wash veggies in our outdoor kitchen, do carpentry in all weather conditions, and spend much of your free time exploring your surroundings.

Tidelines staff and faculty will teach you everything you need to know for backcountry trips: packing, cooking with a camp stove, navigating with a map and compass, bear safety, how to set up a tent, how to stay warm in the rain and cold, and so on. We recognize that there are barriers to accessibility to the outdoors that often fall along race, gender, and class lines and are committed to making sure that every student feels confident, safe, and comfortable outside. But we also want students to challenge themselves, develop a deeper relationship with the natural world, and build confidence. This means that students will take a combination of trips led by staff and on their own.

The Alaskan woods have very few marked paths. When we travel by foot, students can expect rough terrain following game trails, walking along rocky shorelines, or bushwhacking entirely. It is generally much easier to travel by sea than by land, and most of our multi-day trips will be in kayaks.

All students will complete a full safety orientations appropriate to the length and nature of their course.

How physically demanding is the program?

Programs at Tidelines Institute can be physically demanding, involving both strenuous labor and long hours of study depending on the course. In many of our programs, students will be asked to chop firewood, paddle several miles in a day, and traverse steep and pathless terrain. And, as we’re located in a rainforest, you can expect to get rained on while doing any or all of that. While we are committed to working with students with physical limitations, we also ask that prospective students are realistic in thinking about what will be required of them. We encourage all students to build strength and cardiovascular fitness by exercising 30 minutes each day in the weeks leading up to the program. All applicants must carry their own health insurance policies (see Medical and Mental Health below). Any applicant with questions is encouraged to contact us to talk with a staff member or former student.

Applicants with known health problems, including allergies and asthma, are encouraged to talk to their physicians and our staff about options for this summer. 

What is the local community like?


Tidelines Institute operates out of twin campuses, one in the coastal town of Gustavus, AK and one at a remote homestead/field school on the Inian Islands. The community of Gustavus is tiny, with a year-round population of just 450. The town is the gateway community to Glacier Bay National Park, and many individuals work either for the park itself or for tourism businesses that operate in and around it. Fishing—both commercial and sport—is the town’s other major industry. Though small, the town has a vibrant social and cultural life, and is home to many artists, musicians, and scientists.

At the Inian Islands, we will be a community unto ourselves. This remote homestead has a long history as an important community meeting place: first as a fish camp for the Tlingit people, then as a homestead in the early twentieth century, then as a fishing commune in sixties and seventies, and most recently as a B&B. Locals to this region regularly visit the property.

At both campuses we gratefully dwell on the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit, the indigenous residents of this place. Studying Tlingit history, culture, and traditional ecological knowledge will form a core component of our coursework, and students will take classes with Tlingit culture-bearers.

How does Tidelines Institute ensure a safe environment for students and staff?


Over its history, Tidelines Institute has maintained a sterling health and safety record. Most senior staff hold an active Wilderness First Responder, the industry standard in experiential education. We also maintain relationships with a many local and regional medical providers to ensure student well-being. 

Our philosophy is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We orient students to backcountry safety, the safe use of power tools and kitchen equipment, bike safety, kayak safety, mental health, and healthy relationships as appropriate to the length and nature of the course. Students at the Glacier Bay Semester also take a first aid and CPR course. 

What medical and mental health resources are available?


Because of our remote location, medical resources are limited. Tidelines Institute takes student safety extremely seriously, and we strive to avoid mishaps by undertaking rigorous safety trainings with all students (see above). Still, accidents (and illnesses) happen, and when they do, we can rely on the following resources.

    • Gustavus Clinic – Staffed by a resident nurse practitioner, the clinic can diagnose and treat a variety of mild ailments and injuries. The clinic accepts many forms of health insurance and has a sliding fee scale for uninsured or underinsured patients.
    • Gustavus Fire Hall – Staffed by volunteer EMTs, the fire hall can respond to emergency situations and arrange medivac services in the town of Gustavus
    • Guardian Flight and Airlift Northwest – the two regional medivac providers. We strongly recommend that students purchase medivac insurance. Insurance costs roughly $100 per person.
    • US Coast Guard – The USCG responds to any life-threatening emergency and provides medivacs at the Inian Islands Campus.
    • Physician Advisor – Tidelines maintains a relationship with a physician advisor who approves our in-house medical protocols and provides telehealth consultations.
    • Mountaintop Mental Health – Tidelines maintains a relationship with a mental healthcare provider in Juneau who is available to provide telehealth consultations.
    • Bartlett Regional Hospital (Juneau) – BRH houses the closest emergency room, as well as a variety of other specialized medical resources on or near its campus in Juneau. As Juneau is a 30 minute flight from Gustavus and a 50 minute flight from the Inian Islands, it takes at least that amount of time to medivac an individual from the Tidelines campus to the hospital.
    • Seattle & Anchorage hospitals – A wide array of health care options in our two closest major cities provide state-of-the-art care in a wide array of specialties.
    • Ron’s Apothecary (Juneau) – Ron’s Apothecary is the only compounding pharmacy in the region. Students on short courses should come prepared with a supply medication to last their entire course, plus at least a few extra days’ worth in case of delays. Students on longer courses – or students needing a new prescription – can have prescriptions filled at Ron’s Apothecary and sent to Gustavus or Elfin Cove on Alaska Seaplanes. Students are responsible for the cost of the prescription and the Seaplanes freight.
    • On-Campus Resources – each campus maintains a basic first aid locker, and at least one staff member on each campus is trained as a Wilderness First Responder, the industry standard in experiential education. As noted above, our physician advisor is available to help advise on complex cases.

Students are responsible for the following:

    • Maintaining valid health insurance for the duration of the course
    • Bringing a supply of any needed medications sufficient to last the length of your course, plus a few extra days’ worth in case of travel delays. (Glacier Bay Semester students can get prescriptions filled at Ron’s Apothecary.)
    • Taking your own medications as directed by your healthcare provider, without Tidelines oversight. (Tidelines can provide refrigeration for medicines, except on multiday backcountry expeditions.)  
    • Getting any required vaccinations prior to the start of your course.
    • Purchasing medivac insurance, if desired (see above).
    • Reporting any injuries or illness needing attention to a Tidelines staff member.
Will I have WiFi or cell service?


Tidelines cultivates a tech-minimal environment, and we specifically encourage students to think critically about their engagement with technology during the program. Neither students nor their families should expect round-the-clock connectivity.

Limited wifi will be available to students in the main building of each campus. Bandwidth may or may not be sufficient for streaming, downloading, or video calls. Student accommodations do not have internet access. 

Depending on the carrier, there may be spots on each campus with a bar or two of cell service, but this is far from guaranteed. Each campus has a landline and space that can be signed out for private phone calls or video chats. Campuses may be reached at the following phone numbers:

Good River Campus: 907.885.0405
Inian Islands Campus: 907.885.0220

Can students send or receive mail?


Students can send mail from both campuses, but depending on the length of the course, they may or may not be able to receive mail. Even USPS Priority Mail often takes 7-10 days to reach the Good River Campus, even longer to reach the Inian Islands. Students on courses shorter than three weeks should therefore not expect to receive mail during their stay. Mailing addresses are as follows:

Good River Campus
[Student’s Name]
Tidelines Institute
P.O. Box 100
Gustavus, AK 99826

Inian Islands Campus
[Student’s Name]
Tidelines Institute
P.O. Box 100
Gustavus, AK, 99826

Are students allowed to have visitors?


In general, students are not permitted to have visitors during courses. In rare cases, students can make special arrangements with staff for brief visits that do not interrupt programming. 

Students attending programs longer than three months will have a designated week during which guests may visit, but students are still responsible for fulfilling any responsibilities assigned during that week.

All guests must sign a liability waiver. Guests may not be housed on campus. Guests may join in campus meals for a cost of $35/day. This amount is not prorated based on particular meals or number of meals taken; these guests should leave their credit card information with a staff member.

 


Glacier Bay Semester FAQ

Who is eligible for the Glacier Bay Semester?


While the majority of our students are in their second or third year of college, the program is open to young people ages 18 to 24, including students who have recently graduated from either high school or college. We accept U.S. citizens, DACA recipients, undocumented students, and international students residing legally in the United States. Depending on visa type, international students may or may not be able to receive college credit. Unfortunately, Tidelines cannot currently sponsor student visas.

Tidelines Institute does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national and/or ethnic origin, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression in the administration of any of its educational programs, admissions policies, financial aid, and other related policies and programs, as well as volunteer and employment-related policies and activities.

How do I apply as a study away student?


Every college and university has its own process and its own deadlines, so please check with your Study Abroad or Off-Campus Study office! At most schools, you will need to meet with a study abroad/study away advisor and fill out a form expressing your intention to study off-campus in the fall semester of 2024. If the Glacier Bay Semester is not on your school’s list of pre-approved study away programs, many schools offer a petition process whereby students can enroll in an unapproved program. Be sure to check early, as the approval process can take a few weeks! We are happy to submit any information that you may need to your home institution – including syllabi, instructor CVs, etc. – so don’t hesitate to be in touch with us as well. Some schools require a separate meeting with a financial aid office. And of course, you’ll also need to fill out our application as well, either by the priority deadline (January 15th) or the regular deadline (March 15th).

How do I apply as a gap year student?


Just fill out our application and you’re ready to go! The priority deadline is January 15th, 2024 and the regular deadline is March 15th, 2024.

The application deadline has passed. Can I still apply?


Please email the Applications Committee at admissions@tidelinesinstitute.org to inquire. If there are spots available, you are welcome to submit an application.

Why does a fall semester program start in July?


So that you can experience the dynamic beauty of the Alaskan summer! Summer is the season where everything is happening up here – field research and paddle trips, booming gardens and construction projects. We wouldn’t want you to miss it! And the other plus side: since you’ll be getting home in early November, most students will have at least two months for travel, work, internships, and other opportunities before your spring semester begins. 

Can I arrive late or leave early?


In order to preserve the integrity of the cohort, students are not permitted to arrive after the scheduled arrival date, nor may students plan to depart before the scheduled departure date. 

What does it cost to attend? Is financial aid available?


Please visit our Fees & Financial Aid page to learn more about the cost of attendance. We are deeply invested in making sure that students of all financial backgrounds participate in the Glacier Bay Semester, and in the past, over 80% of our students have received financial aid. Students requiring financial aid should plan to participate during their college career as a “study away” program. For domestic and international study abroad opportunities, many students are able to use their federal, state, and/or institutional financial aid. 

Can I pay for the program with my 529 college savings plan or AmeriCorps Vista Education Award?


Yes! If you are paying through your home institution, no further work is required. If you are paying Tidelines Institute directly, please email laura@tidelinesinstitute.org for further information. Be aware that due to the additional work required to process these payments, paying through these channels incurs a 2% administrative fee.

Can I get college credit for the Glacier Bay Semester?


Yes! All GBS courses are accredited through Western Colorado State University. After you finish your final course, you will be able to access your transcript to send to your home institution. Please note that it is your responsibility to work with your college registrar, advisor, and/or major department in order to ensure that your credits transfer smoothly, though Tidelines can help with this process.

What is the workload like?


Prepare to be busy. On your average weekday you are likely to spend 4 hours doing labor, 2-3 in class, and 1-2 on self-governance. And that’s not counting homework, independent projects, down time, meals, and sleep. The Glacier Bay Semester will be fun, but it is also intense, challenging, transformative. You will be stressed sometimes. You may wonder how you’re going to get everything done. But you won’t be alone. And you definitely won’t be bored.

Do I need any prior experience?


Some students will arrive at the Glacier Bay Semester with more relevant experience in academics, labor, or self-governance than others. While all students must be prepared to do college-level coursework, some students may have majors that provide them with a better foundation for the academic material. Others may already know how to weld, cook, or filet a fish; others may already have experience running meetings and organizing political bodies. If you are applying with a strong background in one or more of these areas, you should be aware that you will likely find yourself in an informal mentorship position vis-a-vis your fellow students. It is up to you to take advantage of that role, or to consciously step back to let others give it a try. Participants range in age from roughly from 18 to 24, so there is a range in terms of experience; you should not expect to come here to find that everyone is on equal footing in all areas. That said, since some students will be strong in certain areas and weaker in others, there is great opportunity for reciprocal knowledge-sharing.

What can I expect in terms of mental health?


While many find Tidelines’ warm community environment beneficial for their overall wellbeing, the Glacier Bay Semester can be a high-stress environment, even for students with no history of mental illness. We highly recommend that prospective students with mental health challenges have a stable and effective treatment plan in place well in advance of arriving this summer. We will help students find private space to talk on the phone to their counselors or therapists, and we can connect students to therapists in Juneau willing to provide consultations over the phone. No formal mental health services are available on-site, and mental health emergencies will be treated—like physical health emergencies—as cause for rapid evacuation to professional care.

What is the drug and alcohol policy for students?


Student life at Tidelines is strictly drug, tobacco, and alcohol free. This applies to all students regardless of age. Drugs include all illegal drugs, all prescription drugs taken recreationally and/or without a prescription, marijuana and its derivatives, all forms of tobacco, and e-cigarettes.

Drugs and alcohol are prohibited for a few reasons. First of all, there are safety risks involved with being inebriated in a wild, remote place, with access to both power tools and many natural dangers. Second, while not universally true, many students at traditional colleges use drugs and alcohol in escapist or self-medicating ways. We would like students to be fully present for their time here, and to socialize in ways, while they may be slower than drunk bonding, are ultimately less superficial and more meaningful. We would also like students to take time away and apart from their usual habits—in terms of drugs and alcohol, but also in all aspects of their lives —because a break from routine can make you more intentional about the way you live.

Can I go home or travel elsewhere during the program?


Apart from travel that is part of the program —i.e., travel to the Inian Islands or backcountry trips—student travel is permissible only for medical emergencies. Students who travel outside our program-designated areas for any other reason may forfeit their place in the program, may be asked not to return from their travels, and will not be eligible for a tuition refund.

Can I take online coursework through another university while participating in the Glacier Bay Semester?


Students may not take outside coursework while enrolled. Tidelines is an immersive living-learning program, and students will be fully occupied each day with work and study. Students will have neither the time for additional studies nor sufficiently reliable internet access to succeed in online courses.

What does a typical day look like?


7:00: The kitchen team is making breakfast, while garden team lets the chickens out, opens the greenhouses, and waters the garden.
8:00: Breakfast! Staff and students eat together, then the dish crew gets going before class.
9:30-11:30: Class time.
12:00: Lunch! A couple of students go on a quick midday walk, before they head off to labor.
1:00-4:00: Construction team works on a new bike shed while garden team harvests produce for the evening meal.
4:00-6:00: Kitchen team makes dinner, and it’s free time for everyone else.
6:00: Dinner
After dinner: Students and staff play card games, do homework and committee work, sing together, go on a stroll to the beach as the sun sets, or just hang out.

How do I apply?

Our online application is available here

***Didn’t find an answer to your question? Email us at admissions@tidelinesinstitute.org!